It was one of the wisest men the world has ever known that revealed one of the greatest challenges he had ever been confronted with. “All this,” the Preacher declared, “have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me” (Eccl. 7:23). What was it that was so far from Solomon? What was the thing which eluded him so? It was that “which is far off, and exceeding deep” at which Solomon declared, “who can find it out?”(Eccl.7:24).
Indeed, Solomon would not be the first or the last that would stretch towards the deep places only to find them beyond cognitive understanding and natural reasoning. For, as the Psalmist declares, it is in the “great waters” that men “see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep” (Psalm 107:23-24). Yet, if one could cast off from the coasts of the common and set sail into the horizons of the unknown and uncharted waters of beyond, it is in the deep places that leaders are born. It is out on the deep new lands will be discovered, great wonders will be seen, battles will be won and lost, and men will emerge into the harbors of humanity as visionaries once hailed as headstrong and foolish. Yet the deep will define those who sail its mysteries in ways the shallow and trivial could never do.
Those who sail the great waters of the deep will navigate the very waters which claimed Jonah for three days and nights, in a great fish, down in the great deep. Sailing on the deep is grossly different than traveling on the land. There are no markers nor are there any paths. It is a liquid journey that requires an external compass to stay on course. Very seldom can one just toss the anchor aside, stop awhile and become indifferent and casual about the journey. Traveling on the sea requires great courage, a strong sense of direction, and a dedication to conquering the unknown. While those that travel on land may journey towards a specific destination, the seafaring men, heads up in the spray of the great deep, are on a voyage in a liquid world of insurmountable power and force that even the greatest and strongest of all ships is but trivial to the great waters and the deep.
The first time in the Word of God that the concept of the deep is expressed tells us that “darkness covered the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). Later, Jacob, when he was blessing his son Joseph, stated: “the deep coucheth below.” The most literal translation reveals, “The deep that stretcheth out,” speaking of an unknowing, insurmountable, and immeasurable depth.
The judgments of God are referred to as deep (Ps. 36:6) and the “deep places of the earth are in His hand” (Ps. 95:4). The very foundations of the earth are concealed by the deep like a garment (Ps. 104:6) and it is God which “strengthens the fountains of the deep” (Prov. 8:28). Thus, while the deep may represent a physical depth, there is a strong allusion to a symbolic deep. It is a deep in which the mysteries of God are revealed. It is a deep that takes men from the shallow concepts of shoreline leadership, never truly on the edge but always following the safe traditions and lines. It is a deep which God desires His leaders to launch out into (Luke 5:4).
Although the words expressed by the Apostle Paul spoke of a literal and physical deep, how true a statement it was when he declared, “I have been in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:25)! It was this very Paul, one of the greatest men in the New Testament apart from Jesus, which declared, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33)! There was no one quite like Paul, who because of the abundance of revelation was given a thorn in his flesh, “lest at any time he be exalted above measure” (2 Cor. 12:7).
In the book “Ultimate Leadership” by National Wilson, there are three assumptions which define going any further into the dynamics of the deep. The first assumption is that one is strongly interested in embarking upon the voyage to claim the visions of untold horizons. It is a strong, burning passion, of an individual desperate for more and the dawning realization that every delay “gradually erodes glorious dreams, eventually leading to resignation and acceptance of the status quo” (Wilson, 2003, p. 27).
The second assumption is that one is dissatisfied with his or her present progress and has reached a point close to being considered desperation. Something burns so strongly within that one will do whatever it takes to get to the next level with God. It is at this stage that one must seriously consider the effects of the next step. Once the individual steps forward and sets sail they must be prepared for the deep. This is the third assumption.
The third assumption is that one is ready to embark upon the voyage. Beyond just a desire, interest, burning zeal, or desperation to go further the question that must be asked is, “am I ready?” Where does this writer stand in comparison to the three is a challenging question. At times it would seem that the ship has already sailed with this writer is lashed to the wheel and braving the storms and yet at times the feeling is strong that with every voyage new lands are charted, harbors met, and one must launch out again into the deep. Thus the answer is simple. The voyage has indeed begun, but the deep still calls to deep at every harbor, and once again a new voyage begins for new horizons and uncharted depths.
The question that this writer is faced with is one which reverberates from the pages of one of the oldest books of the Holy Writ. “Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth” (Job 38:16). This indeed is the question that haunts day and night.
According to Nathaniel Wilson, “individual spiritual formation is first the result of a primary spiritual event” (Wilson, 2003, p. 15) and this event, as Wilson stated, is known as a kairological (life-changing) instant. This instant for humanity is the outpouring and infilling of the Holy Ghost. At this point an individual becomes “born again” and the process of spiritual growth or formation occurs. It was Peter that declared, “As newborn babes desiring the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pe. 2:2). In this process preparation is crucial before one can ever attempt to launch out into the deep where the works and wonders of the Lord are.
One great example of this process is seen immediately after the baptism of Jesus the Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Immediately after being baptized the Bible tells us that the Holy Ghost descended like a dove and lighted upon Jesus and a voice from heaven declared, “Thou art my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:10). At first glance it would seem that the voice was entirely for the people and John yet according to the Gospel of Luke the voice declares “in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Immediately after this Jesus was driven into the wilderness.
It was in the wilderness that Jesus would undergo a tremendous series of temptation at the hand of Satan. According to the Gospel of Mark, angles and wild beasts were also present in the wilderness with Him (Mark 1:13). It is important to remember the last words that reverberated through the mind of Jesus: “Thou art my beloved son.” Instantly, when Satan arrived the earnest of the temptation began to challenge that very statement. “If thou be the son of God,” Satan declared, and then proceeded to tempt Him (Luke 4:3, 9). Why would Satan seem to directly challenge the identity of Jesus the Christ after Jesus had heard the words declaring Him to indeed by what Satan was challenging Him upon?
The answer is found in the three temptations. The first temptation challenged the identity of Jesus, the second challenged the mission of Jesus, and the third challenged the methods of Jesus (Wilson, 2003). When looking closely at each answer that Jesus gave in direct relation to the challenges given by Satan there is a very important connection found between this wilderness experience and the experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness. Not only this, but the three critical issues revealed in the wilderness with Jesus were directly connected to Israel in theirs.
All three answers Jesus gives are based out of texts from Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:13, 16; Deut.8:3; Deut. 4:4, 7, 10,) which were commands given to Israel when they were tested for forty years in the wilderness. When Israel first walked out of Egypt and stopped at Sinai, God told Moses to declare their identity and purpose (Ex. 19:1-6). The primary reason that Israel was not successful claiming their promise was contingent upon the fact they did not understand purpose because initially they didn’t not understand who they were in the plan of God. Identity can never be separated from purpose.
Thus, Jesus did what the Israelites could and did not do. Jesus understood His identity and thus understood His purpose and because of this could not be compromised to obtain His “promise” by any other method than the will (mission) of God which was later revealed in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:18). Before anyone embarks upon the voyage into the deep the preparation of spiritual formation must occur. One must walk out “in the power of the Holy Ghost,” refusing to bend under the storms, refusing to turn back as the tempest roars, and refusing to forget the call which led them out to begin with. There must be a steel resolve to fulfill the personal mission (will) that God has even if it leads to death. It is a passion to be obedient unto death. Finally, one must maintain the compass, never changing or altering it. One must never apply new methods for if they do they will crash into the rocks of a forlorn island or be taken by the grip of the mighty deep.